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Editor’s note: This is the fourth and final installment in a series by Greg Laurie entitled “Jesus and the skeptic.” See his archive for previous columns.
Perhaps you are a skeptical person when it comes to the topic of Jesus Christ. Did you know that one of Jesus’ own handpicked disciples was too?
His name was Thomas. People have dubbed him “Doubting Thomas,” but “Skeptical Thomas” or even “Honest Thomas” might be more apt. Thomas was the kind of guy who always spoke his mind. He was not the first to believe something just because others did. Maybe that’s why I like him so much. I am like that by nature as well.
You might say that Thomas is the patron saint of skeptics. This is illustrated by an occasion when Jesus was talking to the disciples about the fact that He was going to leave them soon. They sat and listened in rapt attention, probably not fully grasping His mysterious words. Then Jesus said, “Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know where I am going and how to get there” (John 14:1-4 NLT).
Do you remember being in math class and watching the teacher work out some complex problem on the chalkboard and then turn back and ask the class, “Does everyone understand? Are there any questions?” The room would then fall silent. The fact is that no one understood it, but who wanted to raise his hand and verbalize his ignorance? I think the disciples were this way too at times. I don’t know that anyone really grasped what on earth Jesus was talking about when He told them He was leaving., but they did know how to get there. But leave it to old “Honest Thomas” to speak his mind. After Jesus finished speaking, Thomas blurted out, “We haven’t any idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus calmly responded, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NLT).
Good question, great answer. But Jesus was going to leave them in an unexpected way. He was going to die on a Roman cross. Along with His resurrection, Jesus often spoke of His death to his boys, but it seemed to roll off them like water off a duck’s back. Then when that day came – when Jesus had been scourged, beaten and murdered in cold blood – His closest followers never expected to see Him alive again. But Christ promised that He would rise again – and, three days later, He did just that.
Jesus made many post-resurrection appearances, including one to His disciples who were gathered together. Thomas did not happen to be there that time. Talk about a really bad time to miss church! Then to add insult to injury, Thomas challenged the idea that Jesus had appeared to the others saying, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25 NKJV). In the same way, there are some people who only come to church on rare occasions. We call them CEOs: “Christmas and Easter Only.” Some people don’t even know they’re in a church unless it’s decorated with Easter lilies or Christmas decorations. As one person put it, “Many Americans attend church at least three times in their life. When they are hatched, matched and dispatched. The first time they throw water, the second time they throw rice, and the third time they throw dirt!”
Some might say, “The Bible does not command me to go to church. That’s man-made. God and I are friends; we don’t need to meet in some old, dark church building. Besides, I can talk to God while I’m out surfing or golfing.” While it is true that you don’t necessarily need to go to church to encounter God, it is also true that Jesus is present in a special way when believers gather together! Jesus said, “For where two or three gather together because they are mine, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20 NLT). That is why you cannot effectively walk with Christ “solo.”
Now the next time the disciples met together, old skeptical Thomas was there. And guess who showed up for dinner? Jesus, Himself, greeting Thomas with the words: “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27 NLT). And Thomas cried out, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28 NKJV). Thomas needed no further proof.
Thomas the skeptic had now become Thomas the believer. Up to this point, Thomas no doubt admired Jesus as a tremendous hero, role model and a messenger of God, but now Thomas saw Jesus as “My Lord and my God.” Did you know that the same thing can happen to you as well? Your skepticism can give way to belief. The Bible tells the story of a man who prayed an honest prayer. He simply said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24 NKJV).
Quite honestly, there are a lot of people running around today who claim to be believers who really are not. They claim to follow Jesus Christ, but they really don’t. Some people think that by living a “good life” and being a “moral person” they are somehow a Christian. What they don’t realize is that a Christian is someone who has had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. This doesn’t just mean the “idea” of Christianity or the admiring of Christ as a historical figure who left us an example of morality. You can’t live off someone else’s faith – not the faith of your parents, spouse, children or friend. Jesus Christ must become “your Lord and your God.”
Old Thomas was so overwhelmed that Jesus was risen and took the time for him personally. Jesus did not want to argue with Thomas, but simply take him by the hand. Some might say, “Show me, and I’ll believe,” but Jesus essentially says, “Believe, and I’ll show you.” The Lord makes a wonderful promise to us in the Bible: “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3 NKJV).
Perhaps you are still a skeptic as you read this. Jesus is really good at turning skeptics into believers. Why not go to church this Sunday and find out more?